Hawaii Governor Calls Special Session To Consider Marriage Equality Legislation


Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D)

Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D)

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) has called for a special legislative session to consider a marriage equality bill, pointing out that allowing same-sex couples to marry is important to address in a timely fashion because of implications for those couples’ taxes next year. The session will begin October 28 and last a couple of days, but Abercrombie believes that every view “has been aired, has been analyzed, has been discussed” such that “no one has been left out or has been marginalized in the process to this point.”

The proposed bill specifically references the Supreme Court’s decisions earlier this summer in the Windsor case overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, highlighting how the state’s civil unions deprive couples of the federal rights they could now access with marriage:

The legislature acknowledges the recent decision of the United States Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor, which held that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, Public Law 104-199, unlawfully discriminated against married same-sex couples by prohibiting the federal government from recognizing those marriages and by denying federal benefits and protections to those couples. This legislature has already extended to same-sex couples the right to enter into civil unions that provide the same rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities under state law as afforded to opposite-sex couples who marry. However, these civil unions are not recognized by federal law and will not receive equal treatment to a marriage under federal law. Therefore, it is the intent of the legislature to ensure that same-sex couples are able to take full advantage of federal benefits and protections granted to married opposite-sex couples by allowing same-sex couples to marry under the laws of this State. It is the intent of the legislature that marriages solemnized in accordance with this Act be equal in all respects to the marriages of opposite-sex couples under the laws of this State.

It is the intent of the legislature that there be no legal distinction between same-sex married couples and opposite-sex married couples with respect to marriage under the laws of this State. Thus, the legislature intends that all provisions of law regarding marriage be applied equally to same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples, regardless of whether this Act does or does not amend any particular provision of law.

Marriage equality legislation was proposed earlier this year, but did not advance due to procedural hurdles by a few lawmakers that prevented it from advancing through the committee process. Nevertheless, polls consistently show that a majority of Hawaiians support full marriage equality.